Cleveland, Ohio -
With a #1 national preseason ranking already under their belt, the Akron Zips were the unanimous choice among Mid-American Conference coaches to win the league in 2010. The Zips, led by the reigning National Coach of the Year in Caleb Porter, return eight starters and 11 letterwinners off of a team that began last season with 23 consecutive victories before falling just short of a national title. Although Teal Bunbury, the 2009 Herrmann Trophy Award winner, and defender Blair Gavin have departed for the MLS, Akron still brings back three players named to the CSN Preseason All-American Team, as well as a recruiting class ranked second in the country.
The Akron attack will be led by junior Darlington Nagbe and senior Anthony Ampaipitakwong, both of whom earned All-American honors a season ago and enter this season as Preseason First Team All-American selections. Second Team All-American Kofi Sarkodie will team with fellow defenders Chad Barson, Chris Korb and Zarek Valentin, as well as goalkeeper David Meves, as a defensive unit that finished second in NCAA history with 19 shutouts remains completely intact. A highly touted freshmen class will also press for immediate playing time with one of two Jamaican recruits, Darren Mattocks or McKauly Tulloch, figuring to pair with Nagbe up front, and the #2 overall recruit in the nation, Perry Kitchen, strengthening the defense even further.
Finishing second in the poll are the Northern Illinois Huskies. The NIU attack will be led by junior midfielder Brad Horton, who was just one of three First Team performers from a season ago who didn't suit up for the Zips. Senior forward Juan Hoyos will need to perform well on the front line, while fellow senior Kyle Knotek returns to action to anchor the defense after missing all of last season due to injury. Sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Godsey provides stability in net for the Huskies after a strong rookie campaign that included seven shutout victories.
Tying for third place are Hartwick and Western Michigan. Hartwick will possibly have the most new faces in the league as first-year head coach John Scott takes over the program following the departure of Ian McIntyre, who left to take over at Syracuse. Scott comes to Hartwick by way of Binghamton and will have four former Bearcats coming in with him to help ease the pain of losing seven starters from a year ago, including First Team All-MAC goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo.
Western Michigan hit its stride in the middle of last season and will look to rebound from the loss of two Second Team All-MAC performers in Tyler Rosenhagen and Saeed Sulemana Baba, the latter of whom led the nation in goals per game, scoring 13 times in just 14 matches. Big things will be needed out of the sophomore class, which includes Kai Mendes at forward, Darren Jones in midfield, Yllson Asani in defense, and Cody Camp in goal, the only goalkeeper on the roster with collegiate game experience.
In fifth place in this year's poll are the Buffalo Bulls. The Bulls bring Mike Unwin back into the fold for his senior season, and hope that the final member of last year's First Team can build on the nine goals he scored a year ago. Junior Lucas Bassan will flank him up front, while goalkeeper Nick Fetterman will bring a steadying influence to the back line of the defense.
Placing sixth are the Bowling Green Falcons. BG will need some of their younger players to step up and help the team find an offensive identity after the graduation of their top two goal scorers of a season ago, as well as their leader in assists. The key to the team's success may be in the hands of goalkeeper Miguel Rosales, a transfer from Cincinnati who figures to get the majority of the playing time in net.
Rounding out the poll are the Florida Atlantic Owls. After beginning last season with a promising 4-2-2 start, FAU lost their last eight games, including all six in MAC play to finish last in the league. Darnell King had a solid sophomore campaign, finishing up with 15 points, but a defense that allowed 22 goals during the losing streak will need to tighten up if they are to avoid the cellar.
The regular season opens on Wednesday September 1st
. Conference play is scattered throughout the year with the first MAC contest taking place on September 11th
when Akron travels west to take on Bowling Green. The top four finishers at the end of the regular season will advance into the conference tournament, which will be held at the home field of the #1 overall seed. The MAC Tournament will feature two semifinals held on November 12th
, with the championship match held two days later on November 14th
. 2010 MAC Men's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
1. Akron (7)
2. Northern Illinois
6. Bowling Green
7. Florida Atlantic